Facing the vast universe and vast time, how should human beings find their own meaning?

A long time ago, about 13.799 billion years ago, a state we call singularity brought about today’s universe. This is a state in which the known laws of physics do not work, a state that is believed to have given birth to the current universe. With it, we have space, time, energy and matter. Every atom, every star, every galaxy, every planet comes from that lonely infinite point.

The creation of these ordinary substances, including the dust particles we call the earth, accounts for only 0.3% of the universe. About 68% of the space is occupied by dark energy, an unknown substance. The other 27% is made up of dark matter, another matter that is almost unknown. The remaining 5% is what we know and study, including the negligible 0.3%.

Even so, in this tiny part, there are about 200 billion galaxies coexisting with the Milky Way and 7 trillion stars coexisting with the sun. In the broader stage of the universe, the earth is not only not the leading role, even the supporting role of the supporting role is not the supporting role.

However, we occupy two different spatial coordinates at this special moment. Now, I am doing something in one place while you are reading this article in another place. A conscious observer, a person I don’t know, a person I will never meet. In your life, you have felt things, you have thought things, just as I have felt things and I have thought things. As time goes on, your rich and complicated history collides with my own, resulting in a brand-new history, a result and a history that did not exist before.

Although we are relatively small, with the help of science and technology, we have made this interaction possible. The great astronomer Carl Sagan wants us to briefly visit stop for a minute and take a look at this photo below.

Look at the above point again. We’re right here. At this point, everyone you love, everyone you know and everyone you have heard of exists or ever existed. All kinds of changes and comings and goings in our human history all live here and on this suspended dust particle.

It is as beautiful and real as we wish. But as its charm gradually disappears, how should we deal with this loss? How can we reconcile these apparent contradictions? We are large in the collection of experiences, but small in the universe. We think everything is very important, but in the universe, it is almost negligible. The stories we tell ourselves seem real and meaningful at some point, but once we get away from them, they fall apart. Can we stick to it in the long run?

If we move the lens to the earth for observation ( assuming the Martians will do so ), we can easily come to the conclusion that human beings are different from other animals on the earth. Yes, we are all products of evolution. Of course, we still have similar intuition. But at the level of consciousness, there are some things that make us different – things that allow us to challenge evolution itself.

Physicist David Deutsch believes that this is because we can create knowledge beyond ourselves – such as mathematics, philosophy, literature – and then on the basis of this knowledge, we can continue to have a deeper understanding and study of reality. This is why we can use science to make such great progress in the past 400 years – from building simple telescopes to sending people to the moon.

However, there is also a more fundamental reason: human beings are a more complex and networked species with more connections than other participants in the animal world. Our unique consciousness experience endows us with language ability, enabling us to create culture – a social reality different from the existence, breathing and evolution of anything in nature. Each of our brains is a node in a huge brain network. These brains cooperate with each other to create something larger than their components, enabling us to create the knowledge Deutsch said, but there is much more.

Modern society is biased against the material world. As if there is something that cannot be seen or touched, it is very difficult for us to regard it as real. Therefore, immaterial things, such as culture, generated from complexity are not considered as meaningful as matter. But this is not the case. Culture may not be tangible, but it affects matter in some way. Our brains are driven by culture, and technology is the physical embodiment of culture.

In any case, the key lies in the fact that social reality, which results from the intersection of endless conscious experiences, is as real as physical reality. It is not only a subjective phenomenon, but has formed a completely different level of existence – just like stars, galaxies and planets appeared, just like life itself appeared – it is constantly evolving and slowly dominating the material world.

In this power of life, we have found all things that can make our dust shine: kindness and morality, love and community, hope and innovation, curiosity and science, beauty and art. The value of all these things is so obvious that only blind and wrong minds try to rationalize their meaning. From the phenomenological point of view, these things are there. They affect your conscious experience very clearly and don’t care what you think of them.

The history of mankind is complex and contradictory. On the one hand, considering our influence on ecology and other living things, it is difficult for us to ignore that we may be the most destructive force in the history of this planet. We kill, we conquer, then we kill again, conquer again. However, despite these mistakes, human beings are also the only known creatures in the universe that can use culture to demonstrate the realistic potential of no violence. At least within the scope of our own existence, we have tended to exist in a gentler and more loving way.

Homo sapiens has roamed the earth for about 200,000 years. A typical mammalian species can survive for about 2 million years. However, somehow, in this short period of time, we have been able to eliminate diseases, split atoms and leave the earth’s atmosphere. What is the most important thing? If the rate of cultural change continues at the current rate, as long as we persist, more and more changes will occur in a shorter and shorter period of time. We are still a young species. If we unleash our imagination – even a little – it is not difficult to see the infinite potential of the future.

Based on our space position in the universe, we may not be special, but the emergence of our social reality and the potential it offers mean that everything we do, big or small, is very important. Our collective cultural consciousness is a huge net interwoven with reality. Each of us is connected to it. Every action we take affects it to a certain extent. Every one of us will have a ” current” of change in our thoughts. Whether we like it or not, whether we choose to participate in its formation consciously or not, it will evolve.

The purpose of life lies in front of us: to create a reality we want and reach the other side we want. Every moment we are faced with how to express our choices in this world. Each choice is very important. Grandfather telling a story to his grandson may encourage him to write a new story for others in the future. A particularly loving teacher may use engineering to stimulate a little girl’s interest and make her study hard in this field to permanently change our relationship with outer space. Of course, that boy and that girl may inspire millions of others and create a ripple effect.

After 13.799 billion years of darkness, light finally appeared. This beam of light may be infinitely small, and we may not be the only one carrying it in the universe. It may not even be as meaningful as we think. But all we know is that it is here, and we will continue to spread the light.